In which Katy can’t catch a break, revisits the classics, and meets her end.
The Beginning of the End: A Grocery Store Horror Story
I stare at the spot Tom once was and drop to my knees. The urge to hurl all over the carpet is strong, but I feel a gentle hand on my back, so I look up into Rain’s eyes. The cries that escape my throat are jagged and sharp.
“It’s ok, Katy. Shhhh-”
“Why am I even crying?” My eyebrows raise incredulously. “He was a sick son of a bitch, but I can’t stop-” I swipe at the tears trailing down my cheeks.
“You can mourn the people who hurt you, you know,” Rain says softly, “it’s not wrong. It’s human.” Shuddering, I lean into her arms and let my pain out like a child. It’s ugly, wet, and feral, but I don’t care. Regina and Guy make their way over to Arnold as my cries lessen. Guy grabs Arnold’s hand and whispers to his brother while Regina numbly looks at the hole in his chest. The lights in the library flicker, and dread fills my chest. Before I can scream a word of warning, a pitch-black substance oozes from the shadow of a bookcase, toppling a novel that hits the floor without a sound. The horror on my friends’ faces quickly morphs into fear as they scramble backward on the floor.
“Katy!” Guy whisper yells. I turn my head slightly and see the three of them a few feet behind me. Guy looks at me urgently, eyes widening and hand gesturing for me to join them. The black substance begins to build on itself, leaning in my direction. It’s just a guess, but it looks like it’s ignoring the others.
“I’m sorry I lied.” I smile at my friends with tears in my eyes. “I told you I could clear my head of these thoughts,” I gesture back at Death, “but I don’t think I can.” I look at the giant in front of me in defeat. It shifts its mass into what distinctly looks like Christina, then the Racist. To think Death would arrange a front-row seat just for me. Katy’s Classics: Why Your Life Sucks. It ends with Tom reaching out to me. I hesitantly extend my hand for a moment, chancing a glance back at Guy. He’s screaming my name, but it’s muffled. My friends stand up to drag me back, but pure black tendrils hold them down by their ankles. They try to shift, but it’s no use. I lift myself off the floor and mouth a short message to my friends while thinking the words as hard as I can.
I focus on Guy, what we had and what could have been, and smile. He struggles against the tendrils in desperation but halts his movements when my thoughts reach him. Unable to take anymore, I turn around and face my Death. I take a trembling step forward, and it occurs to me that I could try to suck Regina, Rain, and Guy back into my body to avoid being alone in my final moments, but I shake the random, cruel thought away. They’ll be free, and that’s all that matters.
“Hey, asshole! I’m right here,” I yell with the bravado of an 80s action star. Death shifts one more time, and I see the last caricature: short stature, curly hair, and wearing a bright yellow shirt-just my luck.
“So, you accept?” Hearing my voice echo back jolts me to attention. Death’s voice fades in and out before an unnaturally big grin creeps along its face. It doesn’t blink, and its cheeks twitch as if trying to figure out which facial expression to portray.
“That I am inevitable, the End, the conclusion to your story.” My doppelganger walks around me, inspecting every inch of me like I’m a fragile butterfly about to be nailed to a wall.
“Yes.” I get the impression that this being requires nothing less than straight answers.
“I see. And one final question,” Death twirls its finger theatrically, “am I your enemy?”
“What’s your game here?” My heart hammers in my chest as my words spill from my lips. It halts and stares me down until I shut my mouth tightly.
“No games. I just want to know if you can let go of your grudge against me. Oh, and your answer won’t save you, so don’t try to wiggle out of this.” How can it ask me that? All Death (trademarked or otherwise) has ever brought me is despair. I run my hands over my face, then deliver the best answer I can.
“I don’t like you.” Death guffaws. “I don’t want to die. I want to live.” The words feel foreign on my tongue, and I realize why. I have never thought or said these sentences before, never made the proactive choice to live. The desire to exist, spend time with my new family, breathe the air in the park, for everything bubbles up in me, and it gives me the strength to finish my answer. “But, it all ends eventually. We just do. It’s a fact, like the weather or a sunset.” I lick my lips. “No, you’re not my enemy. Not living is the true enemy. Despair, cruelty, and fear are the enemy.”
“Bingo!” Not-me spreads its arms out, unleashing its inky depths across the library. A tendril hurtles at me, and then, nothing.
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